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This article was published on March 14, 2023

New data centre turns waste heat into warm water for swimming pools

The system could heat numerous businesses


New data centre turns waste heat into warm water for swimming pools

A startup has unveiled a UK-first solution to soaring energy bills: data centre heat.

The company, called Deep Green, installs tiny cloud data centres at local businesses. The system then turns heat from the servers into hot water for the host site.

Deep Green provides the equipment free of charge and refunds the electricity costs. As a result, the client can cut their carbon emissions and energy bills.

In exchange, Deep Green gets a home for the data centre, which supplies computer power for AI and machine learning to customers.

Deep Green’s computers are submerged in mineral oil that captures waste heat.
Computers inside the washing machine-sized data centre are surrounded by oil. Credit: Deep Green.

The “digital boilers” are now coming to public swimming pools, which are struggling with surging energy costs.

Across Britain, 85 pools have closed since 2019, the Guardian revealed last week. According to trade body UK Active, 31% of council areas in England may lose or trim their leisure centres after the current energy support scheme ends on 1 April.

Deep Green today revealed that a fitness club in Devon is already using the digital boiler. Seven other pools in England have also signed up for the scheme.

To warm them up, the data centre computers are submerged in mineral oil, which captures heat from the machines. The output is then processed through a heat exchanger and into the water.

The temperature is only topped up when required. According to Deep Green, the system can cut a pool’s gas needs by over 62%, save £20,000 a year, and slash annual carbon emissions by 25.8 tonnes.

Diagram courtesy of Deep Green.
Deep Green says it can heat the pool to 30C for 60% of the time. Credit: Deep Green.

Deep Green’s tech is unusual, but it’s far from the first company to recycle data centre heat.

The concept is particularly popular in the Nordic region. In Finland, for instance, plans are afoot to use waste heat from two new Microsoft data centres to warm homes and businesses in and around Helsinki.

The project, however, relies on extensive public infrastructure. The data centres will connect to a 900km network of underground pipes to reach users in the region.

Deep Green applies a very different approach.

“Rather than building a data centre, and then finding ways to connect it to local communities, Deep Green installs the data centres directly where the heat is needed,” Mark Bjornsgaard, CEO of Deep Green, told TNW via email.

“By utilising a modular approach and building our data centres within ‘the fabric of society,’ we bring the heat to the user, reducing energy lost in transportation and increasing the efficiency of energy recovery.”

According to Bjornsgaard, around 30% of industrial and commercial heat demand  could be met by Deep Green’s tech.

Just don’t tell the crypto bros — or your local pool may soon host a Bitcoin mining rig.

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